Women all over the world are oppressed. They are denied education, protection and basic freedoms. Men are, too, in some countries.
When democracy steps in on behalf of equality, many women are free to celebrate their rights, like their right to speak, right to be independent and right to choose.
Yet, the choices women have to make can lead to new restrictions.
The women who surround me every day — college-educated, preparing to graduate, on the job hunt, etc. — are facing some of the most important choices they’ve ever had to make.
In the next decade, many of us will choose jobs, spouses and where to build our homes.
And, in the midst of those choices, one stands out, just as it has for generations of women before us: The choice between building a career and building a family.
In the last few months, I’ve joked with my roommates at least half a dozen times about the idea of me having a baby — it’s not an idea I’m crazy about. I’m in the maybe-I’ll-adopt-one-day camp.
When I think about it, though, I probably couldn’t have a child anyway. The life I want doesn’t include room for a tiny life in need of constant care and attention.
I’m a young journalist devoted to my career and the plans I have for it. I want to see the world, but the occasional vacation in one faraway-but-not-so-different city or other won’t cut it.
I want to be a foreign correspondent in the middle of conflict, ready to show the world those oppressed lives caught in the turmoil of which we’re barely aware. I want to tell stories and change lives.
And, for the record, I also want to be able to go out with my friends and colleagues for a drink without worrying about finding a reliable babysitter first. That might be selfish, but I only have one chance to enjoy this life.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years, and as much as he wants to talk about moving in together and getting married, I just want to land my first job after college.
I’d like to be married within the next 10 years, too, but I won’t sacrifice what I’ve worked for to get that white dress and to say those vows.
I have friends who disagree. Some women dream of houses in the suburbs full of healthy children and a loving husbands or wives.
I don’t have many male friends who think that way, though.
Young men want families, too, but they rarely have to consider how a family will affect how far they can climb. Having a happy family is just another rung on the ladder to proving their success.
Why isn’t it that way for women?
We can blame tradition or gender roles or the expectations of a male-dominated society, but all of those things just feel like excuses.
The way I see it, the temptation of making the decision between work and family right now is the problem.
How many young women really know what they’ll want a decade from now?
We can plan the perfect weddings and pick the perfect names for the kids we’ll have with our perfect partners and build our perfect careers, but what’s perfect now might not be so tomorrow.
Women aren’t doing anything wrong; we’re pretty much killing it actually. But, we could benefit from a few adjustments and, dare I say it, taking a few pages out of the man book.
Live for the moment. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. And if you want to build a happy family one day, don’t forget to build a happy you to pave the way.